Tonight I was in Buxton to see Mr Peter Brush do his Edinburgh Preview show – Older than the oldest dog that ever lived. Buxton is an extremely nice town that by map is close to most places, yet is a good 90 minutes or so away by road for me. This isn’t much of a problem, as it’s a pleasant drive through the Peak District, but it does mean that you have to be sure you really want to see the comedian performing there.
The venue was the Barrel Room, an underground venue, with good acoustics, but also reminiscent of a bomb shelter (some period posters on the wall would set it off a treat). The room had a mixture of booths alongside one wall, with a table, light and comfy sofa seating and the rows of chairs which looked as if some of the organiser’s dining room tables were now rather lonely. There was another room nearby (kitchen of adjoining hotel?) from which a constant hubbub of conversation could be heard, which was irritating. The crowd consisted of 8 people, which doesn’t sound like many, but which did half fill the venue, giving it a respectable feel, however building momentum with 8 people is a tricky job.
Although I’m neutral in reviewing people, I must confess that Brush is a favourite of mine. Not because he is the next Kitson or because I’ve hurt myself laughing (ala with Tom Binns), but because he does extremely intelligent sets with well thought out and unexpected reveals that work on more than one level.
Tonight he opened with a casual remark about his appearance, but strangely didn’t give it the twist about the gym that transforms it from a decent opener into something three times as good. This was then followed by some very sharp and individualistic observations about property, the afterlife, noisy neighbours, birth, vices, life expectancy, dogs, ghosts and then a splendiferous ending based on difficulty in finding a good hairdresser. Some of these are topics that have been touched before by other comics (property, vices and life expectancy), but Brush deals with them in his own way. He’s very sharp and articulate with a precise manner of delivery – a lot of comedians hmm and err during a set. With Brush there is none of this. He uses words with a wonderful precision that ensures he packs a lot into his set. It also means that you have to listen carefully to nuance, as a lot of his reveals pack double and triple payoffs into them. For example, one about school football team selection has 3 distinct laughs to it. There is a change in pace 40 minutes or so in, when we reach a very entertaining section about ghosts. This change in pace is welcome, as an hour is a long time for anyone, but also because it sets the scene for the finale of what is a really entertaining show.
This was Brush’s first hour long show. 60 minutes talking is a long time. It’s hard to fill an hour. Stadium headliners will typically do 45 minutes, have a break, do the next 45 minutes then go home. Brush doesn’t do songs, do characters or use props. Instead, he delivers observations with brilliant throwaway comments that sound really casual, but which in reality have been well thought through. This is an act that a clever crowd will really appreciate as they will get a lot of value from him. A crowd just wanting crude knob jokes, will also enjoy his set, but not nearly so much. He is definitely a man worth watching and with the right exposure, a star of the future.